Sunday, May 30, 2010

Letter to the Editor of the Macon County Chronicle

Dear Editor,

Last week your paper published an article entitled “House Rejects Prohibiting Lobbyists from TN Alcoholic Beverage Commission Membership.” The authorless article extensively quotes radio talk show host Steve Gill. I wasn’t interviewed for this story but I was referenced several times. Therefore, as Chairman of the Committee and sponsor of the bill in question, I would like to provide accurate information for your readers.

The author’s main point seems to be that the House has rejected an amendment that would prohibit lobbyists from serving on the commission. However, this is not a concern for the House. This practice was already made illegal for all boards and commissions in 2006 as part of our ethics reform legislation. TCA 3-6-304 prohibits lobbyists from serving on any board or commission having jurisdiction to regulate the business endeavors or professional activities of any employer of the lobbyist. I am proud of this law because not only did I co-sponsor it, I first suggested it. The Senate’s language broadens this law.

This Session the House has watched and waited as the Senate has engaged in a confusing array of amendments, adopting and withdrawing one after the other for the alcoholic beverage commission and many other entities – this has created some distrust among House members over what they are trying to accomplish.

Part of the House’s concern is that last fall a subcommittee of the Joint Government Operations Committee performed an audit review of the Alcoholic Beverage Commission – many of us felt that the audit revealed problems which necessitate a restructuring of the commission.

Developing a plan takes cooperation. During session, I was able to get all House members to agree to a plan to extend the commission for one year only and then hold hearings this summer in order to map out a new future for the Commission. Thus far, I have met with and received letters of interest from both the Commissioner of Revenue and the head of the TBI about taking the commission under their purview. Naturally, not all House members are comfortable with a total restructuring of yet another entity in state government - the Senate’s actions have provoked concern among House members that they are moving ahead without the House’s voice.

It is my job to walk 99 House members through this process so that we have a well functioning commission when we are through. I have spoken with House members on both sides of the isle, and I finally feel that they have an understanding of the Senate’s amendments.

I am not sure why the author did not contact me, why there is no name, nor of where the radio talk show host received his information but I do know that this past weekend this article mysteriously appeared on many doors in Wilson County that have my yard signs. I realize that journalism is changing, but the author should know that it is still good practice, and only just, to interview all sides of the issue for readers to be fully informed.

Rep. Susan Lynn
Chairman, Government Operations Committee

215 War Memorial Building
Nashville, TN 37243